The thought of attending an RV rally is something that just doesn’t excite our family. We have attended a few NAARVA rallies, and even an FMCA rally two years ago. Check out the links to those blogs here. Neither of those rallies were particularly family-friendly. Honestly, we just didn’t see the value in attending these types of rallies in the future, but when the invite to the 97th FMCA’s International Convention and RV Expo arrived in my email box, I must admit I was interested. Over the past few years, there has been so much buzz in the RV industry, and unless you were hiding in a cave, it would be impossible to have not heard about the recent explosion of sales and interest in RVing. With the average age of RV ownership dropping into the mid-forties and nearly a million RVs being sold in the past 24 months, we were very eager to experience these changes firsthand.
Not to mention that FMCA themselves had recently undergone a massive change. FMCA, after a membership-wide vote, would now be allowingtowable RV owners to join. For the first time, towable owners can actually join and be full-time members enjoying all the great benefits that the FMCA offers.
Heading to Perry, GA….
As life happens, there was a family conflict and we had a choice to make, either I attend the rally alone or we don’t go at all. I was too curious not to attend and knowing that a friend of mine was coming down in his rig from D.C., I figured I would have some company. I set out with our dog, Ebony, for the drive down to Perry, Georgia. I have to admit I was nervous heading south, and it wasn’t because I was driving by myself.
I was nervous because for the first time in my five years of RVing, I would be boondocking for multiple days. I know many of you are probably laughing at that statement. What do you mean by boondocking for an extended period for the first time? Yes, 99.9% of our RVing in our first five years has been at campgrounds. Yes, we have had, enjoyed, and been spoiled by full hook-ups.
Hopefully, boondocking would be just one of the many new experiences I would enjoy at this rally. If you haven’t been to the Georgia state fairgrounds, it’s a massive place and perfect for a rally of this size. I read some preshow posts that reported over 2,000 rigs would be camping at the show.
As I arrived, I was greeted and escorted by golf cart to my camping area.
I was assigned Lot I 42ndStreet. I was impressed already by the street names and signs at an RV rally. After setting up quickly, I assessed the area around me. There were plenty of open spaces for the dog to walk and plenty of rigs were around me. I chose to camp out in the 24-hour generator access, as my knowledge of boondocking was limited.
There’s an App of That Too…
After I settled in, it was time to explore the campground. After texting my friend and learning he was still a few hours away, I grabbed Ebony and we walked around.
Not far from where we set-up, we came across a group of NAARVA members, called the Fun Seekers. I could tell from their set-up they were veterans of rallies like this. I then proceeded to the main area and checked in, got the rally schedule, and picked up a map of the campground. I also found out that FMCA was using a cellular app for the first time. I downloaded the app to see if it would be effective or just a dud.
I will admit I was very surprised how useful the app was during my stay. This was another big step forward for FMCA.
Meeting Some of Those Mysterious Millennials…
Off in the near distance, I noticed a Type B parked by itself and wondered why they were there by themselves. I made a mental note to see if I could meander over and do some investigation. My chance came the next evening while walking Ebony. I noticed there were two dogs outside the Type B, and of course, Ebony was attracted to the idea of going to meet some new dogs so I allowed her to lead me close to the rig. One thing I have learned from my years of RVing is RVers typically are very friendly people. As we got closer, the dogs started barking, and so did Ebony. To my surprise, two young ladies popped out from the rear of the RV to say hello. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I have to admit I was. Maybe it was the stereotype of two women camping all by themselves.
However surprised I was, we struck up an incredibly fun conversation. The Livingston sisters happened to be first time attendees at the FMCA rally. They came there to learn about the RV they have owned for a few years. They had a full-schedule of seminars they planned on attending. We visited for over an hour. It was fun to learn about their experiences traveling in a Type B. Two women and two big dogs; they are braver than I am.
We exchanged information to keep in touch. I hope to see them again on the road soon.
Vendors, seminars and so much more….
One of the best things about attending a large FMCA convention is there is always plenty to see, do, and have done (to your rig).
I was having my tow bar serviced. During the service, they noticed a major safety problem. They were kind enough to send me into the vendor hall where I was able to purchase a new tow bar (at a show discount). They even sent a tech right out to my rig to install it that afternoon!
There was a list of over 100 different seminars to attend. Topics ranged from full-timing, RV maintenance and RV solar systems (which I attended) just to name a few.
The vendor hall was filled with hundreds of vendors selling all the items you knew and did not know you needed to enhance your RV experience. Of course, I walked away with a few new items that I absolutely needed to make our RVing easier. I dare you to try not to buy something…
There was also a good-sized RV vendor section featuring hundreds of the newest RVs if you wanted to upgrade your current rig. There were some big-time dealerships like NIRVC and Camping World. I spent a lot of time checking out the RV my wife has been trying to convince we need in our lives. She fell in love with it at the Florida RV Super Show this year and it would be the second RV for our family.
The Hymer Active 2.0 loft addition just might be the perfect 2ndRV for our family. Now, if only I could just pick those winning lottery numbers, I can place the order.
As Ebony and I drove away from the Georgia fairgrounds, one thing struck me clearly, the needle has definitely moved over the past two years. Seeing towable RVs camped side-by-side with the motorhomes was refreshing.
While the bulk of the attendees I interacted with were of the retired age, I did notice a significant increase in both minorities and younger RVers. What was my biggest takeaway you ask? Make a FMCA convention a meetup with friends. You can couple new learning in seminars with getting work/upgrades on your RV, all while hanging out and having fun with friends. The experience is furthered when you are surrounded by thousands of other people who love RVing.
I will definitely be attending another large FMCA convention. Next time, I will make sure to invite plenty of friends to camp with us!
Soulful RV Family